New York Film Festival: Changes in ‘Carnage’ surprise

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REPORTING FROM NEW YORK -- Opening night at the New York Film Festival is always a starry mix of actors (Jeremy Irons, Anjelica Huston) and artists (Cindy Sherman, Gregory Crewdson) and, of course, Manhattan society — but this year the absences at “Carnage” were as notable as the names in attendance.

It was no surprise that director Roman Polanski was a no-show, given his unresolved issues with the Los Angeles district attorney’s office. “Carnage,” his adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s 2006 play (seen with its Broadway cast at the Ahmanson earlier this year) “God of Carnage,” marks his cinematic return to the festival after a 48-year absence.

The other absence was one of the stars of “Carnage,” Christoph Waltz. The Academy Award-winning actor was set to attend the opening-night festivities but dislocated his pelvic bone while training on a horse in preparation for Quentin Tarantino’s next film, “Django Unchained.”


PHOTOS: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and more at the ‘Carnage’ premiere

Reza was brought up on stage before the screening by festival program director Richard Pena, along with one-half of the film’s two couples: John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster, who play Michael and Penelope (the James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden couple from the Broadway and Ahmanson productions).

The one surprise appearance at the screening, at least for those who had seen Reza’s play on stage (none of the actors from the Broadway run showed up) was a new translation of the French original text. In Christopher Hampton’s translation, the two couples drank 15-year-old Coeur de Chauffe rum, which has been changed to Bruichladdich 18-year single-malt scotch in the screenplay credited to Reza and Polanski (translated into English by Michael Katims). Also the much-talked-about “clafoutis” is now a “crumble,” and the pivotal “puking” in the play is now referred to as “tossing your cookies.” (Similarly, the two women characters’ names have been changed from Veronica and Annette to Nancy and Penelope.)

Asked the next day about these changes, Reza says: “Roman is obsessed by details ... he is a genius of the details.” Because of this, she trusted Polanski: “Not a single camera shot is the same, you don’t feel you are just in a room.”

This writer has been reluctant to allow her plays -- including “Art,” which grossed more $300 million and was produced in over 30 countries -- to be adapted for the movies.

“It’s very dangerous, you put a play in someone’s hands,” Reza explains, “and the play might be dead because everybody goes and sees the movie and it could be very difficult to put it on stage after. So, I was waiting for a great filmmaker to ask me and luckily it was Roman.”

Asked if she’s happy with the results, the playwright said yes -- but added that she has no further plans to write for films. “This is not my job,” she laughs, then elaborates on the difference between screenplays and films: “In plays you can go much further, you can go more demented.”


Theater review: ‘God of Carnage’ at the Ahmanson Theatre

Actors talk about the rhythms of ‘God of Carnage’

--James C. Taylor

[For the record, Oct. 3, 11 a.m.: Reza’s ‘A Spanish Play’ was adapted by the playwright into a film entitled ‘Chicas’ that she directed in 2010. A previous version of this post stated that ‘God of Carnage’ was the first play that she had allowed to be adapted as a movie.]